Phonics and Structural Analysis
Kathy Chen sits with a Big Book propped on one knee and seven of her first graders clustered on the floor in front of her. Pointing to each word, she reads, “…and he pulled the rabbit out of his…” She pauses and asks,
“Who can tell me the next word?” Four voices shout, “Hat!”
“Good,” says Kathy. “Who can tell me why?”
“It’s in the picture,” one student answers.
“Yes, and what letter doesÂ hatÂ begin with?” Kathy asks.
“That’s right,” says Kathy. “Does anyone see another word that begins withÂ h? Keesha, come and point to the word. Good! That word isÂ his, and it begins withÂ h. Let’s all sayÂ hisÂ andÂ hatÂ out loud. Can you hear that they begin with the same sound?”
Kathy is taking advantage of a shared reading session to teach her students a lesson in decoding, the process of identifying the written form of a spoken word. She uses three types of cues. Semantics (meaning) and structural analysis help the students identify the wordÂ hat; phonics (letter-sound associations) help them learn to recognizeÂ hat, heÂ andÂ his. “All three ways of learning to read are essential,” says Kathy. “Phonics can’t stand alone.”
Teaching Phonics in SequenceTry this progression when teaching phonics:
Ideas for Teaching Phonics
- Use words and names that are part of students’ visual environment to reinforce letter-sound associations.
- Create a phonics chart that contains words with a particular phonogram.
- Have students write tongue twisters using words that begin with the same sound.
- Have teams brainstorm to generate the longest list of words containing a particular phonogram.
In Julia Carriosa’s fourth grade class, word skill instruction focuses on structural analysis, the process of using familiar word parts (base words, prefixes, and suffixes) to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.
“By fourth grade, most of my students are already skilled at letter=sound associations,” she says. “But they’re now dealing with harder words, and even when they’ve pronounced a word correctly, they might not know what it means. So we focus on context clues and whatever meaning clues the word itself might contain.”
Be sure your students understand that many prefixes and suffixes have more than one meaning, as inÂ inactiveÂ andÂ inroad, and that even when they know the correct meaning of an affix, they might still come up with an incorrect definition. Emphasize the importance of checking a word’s context to see if their guessed meaning makes sense.
These checklists may be helpful in assessing your students’ decoding skills.
- beginning consonants
- end consonants
- medial consonants
- consonant blends (bl, gr, sp)
- consonant digraphs (sh, th, ch)
- short vowels
- long vowels
- vowel pairs (oo, ew, oi, oy)
- inflected forms (-s, -es, -ed, -ing, -ly)
- compound words
- base words
- root words
Structural Analysis and Phonics
High-Frequency Words and Vocabulary
High-frequency words are the words that appear most often in printed materials. According to Robert Hillerich, “Just three wordsÂ I, and, theÂ account for ten percent of all words in printed English.”
“High-frequency words are hard for my students to remember because they tend to be abstract,” says first grade teacher Kathy Chen. They can’t use a picture clue to figure out the wordÂ with. And phonics clues don’t always work either.”
Learning to recognize high-frequency words by sight is critical to developing fluency in reading. Kathy explains, “Recognizing these words gives students a basic context for figuring out other words. Once they recognizeÂ the, they can predict with amazing accuracy what the next word will be.”
|Teacher TipWord Walls, lists of words that follow a particular pattern, are an effective tool for teaching high-frequency words and vocabulary. Here are some ideas:
Ideas for Teaching High-Frequency Words
- Have students create rebus sentences, using high-frequency words such asÂ the, is,Â andÂ in.
- Write high-frequency words on cards. Have students form sentences using a pocket chart.
- Have students keep lists of words they can read and write. When they have trouble with a word, they can refer to their notebooks.
- Point out similarities between new words and those students can already decode.
Julia Carriosa asks her fourth grade students to reread the following passage:
When ocean particles contain bits of soil, especially clay, the particles of earth stick to oil droplets. The more sediments that are mixed in the water, the more oil is eventually deposited on the ocean bottom.
“Now, let’s suppose you don’t know whatÂ sedimentsÂ means,” says Julia. “What do you do?”
Lisa raises her hand. “Look it up in the dictionary?”
“Yes. But suppose you don’t have a dictionary handy. What else could you do?”
Julia then helps her students see that the passage contains enough context clues to give them an adequate understanding of the word sediments.
Choosing Vocabulary Words to Aid Comprehension
These steps can help you identify words that will improve students’ comprehension when taught directly.
- Identify a selection’s theme or key concepts.
- Cluster words from the selection that relate to the theme or key concepts.
- Eliminate words students know or can figure out from context clues or structural analysis.
- Eliminate words whose meaning is not needed to understand something important.
Ideas for Teaching Vocabulary
- While reading aloud to the class, pause to discuss interesting or amusing words.
- Have students list in their journals words that interest or confuse them.
- Don’t have students copy definitions, but do teach them how to use a dictionary.
- Use graphic devices to help students explore individual words or relationships between words.
|Teacher Tip: Effective Instruction